The impact of natural disasters on social capital: An analysis of ingroup and outgroup trust

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Although conventional wisdom suggests that natural disasters tear down trust between people, this is not necessarily true for all forms of social trust. This study theoretically distinguishes between trust towards individuals within one’s “ingroup” and trust towards individuals outside of the ingroup, or “outgroup.” I argue that the scarcity induced by natural disasters increases people’s fear of and hostility towards outgroup members but simultaneously increases benevolence towards and willingness to cooperate with fellow ingroup members. Multilevel analysis of data for more than 150,000 individuals from 82 countries indicates that ingroup trust tends to increase after a disaster, whereas the effect on outgroup trust is less clear, with some non-robust evidence of a negative relationship. The results are not affected by reverse causality, but the impact of disasters on trust appears to be temporary. This paper underscores the importance of comprehending people’s reactions to natural disasters, as a lack of knowledge in this area can result in poorly planned and executed responses, exacerbating the already damaging impact of these events.
Original languageEnglish
Article number103860
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2023


  • Natural disasters
  • Social capital
  • Social class
  • Trust

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